Concrete-recycling plant continues crushing in northwest Atlanta, much to neighbors' disappointment

Facility that missed officials' radar appeals cease-and-desist from City Hall

What’s in a name? For Metro Green Recycling, it could determine the fate of its innovative recycling facility for construction concrete in northwest Atlanta's Bolton neighborhood.

The city says the facility slipped through permitting cracks last year without a special-use permit required for recyclers, and issued a cease-and-desist order that Metro Green will battle at a June 4 zoning hearing.

The dispute comes down to a claim that “they’re not recycling even though recycling is in their name,” says Karyn Hudson, president of the Bolton Community Organization.

For a neighborhood that has long wrangled with massive industrial sites — look no further than Waste Managements’s now-shuttered landfill — Metro Green’s quiet opening several months ago is a concern, Hudson says. Neighbors first noticed the business when trucks loaded with concrete began using residential streets, she says.

“It is an impact,” says Hudson, who lives on Adams Drive. “We’ve had dump trucks…rumbling down our street, banging over speed bumps.”

Metro Green manager Mark Black did not return a CL phone call. The company’s first and larger facility, located in Doraville, recycles a wide variety of construction and demolition debris that might otherwise head for landfills, including concrete, soil, and asphalt. According to the Metro Green website, the new Bolton facility at 2490 Marietta Road N.W. handles only concrete and rock, which is ground down into gravel or sand-type materials that are then made available for purchase.

The city's Office of Buildings approved Metro Green’s business license for the site on the grounds that the heavy-industrial zoning allows for storage of contractors’ equipment, gravel, and sand. But city officials took another look after hearing residents’ complaints.

On Jan. 5, the Zoning Enforcement Division issued a cease-and-desist letter to Metro Green.

“The aspect of your business operation which receives, stores and recycles broken bulk concrete by ‘running broken bulk concrete through a crusher’ is a use which the City classifies as a ‘materials recovery facility,’” says the letter, a copy of which the city provided to CL.

That use requires a special-use permit from the Atlanta City Council, the letter says. But Metro Green appealed that decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and requested a hearing deferral until June 4, according to Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed.

“It is our understanding that Metro Green is still operating despite the cease-and-desist letter,” says Jewanna Gaither, also a Reed spokeswoman. The facility can do so while the appeal is pending. Torres notes that whatever the BZA decides, either party can appeal in Fulton County Superior Court.

Besides the truck traffic, Hudson says, Bolton neighbors are worried about the “very poor precedent” of such a major facility opening without notice and possibly without a necessary permit, then continuing to operate during the appeal process.

She says it’s especially disappointing in contrast to a recent neighborhood and city victory in negotiations with Waste Management on an adjacent property. Waste Management proposed one of the most controversial uses imaginable — a sewage recycling plant. But it ended up getting neighborhood support after agreeing to various mitigations and a truck-traffic routing plan. That facility only will be built if Waste Management wins a pending sewage-recycling contract from the city.

Hudson says it’s possible that Metro Green could gain similar support from the neighborhood — “if they ever come to us.”

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